Guide to Canada’s Best Wines 2020 – Top Cabernet Sauvignon

Announcing Canada’s Top Cabernet Sauvignons

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Category Overview by Sara d’Amato

Truth be told, when judging the cabernet sauvignon category, the conversation inevitably turns to whether or not the variety should be grown in Canada, more particularly in Ontario. It takes considerable effort to grow and ripen cabernet sauvignon successfully in many vintages and although the effort is rewarded with some of the highest grape processing rates per tonne in the province ($2,092 per tonne as per the Grape Growers Association of Ontario), the results are not always consistent. Yet, looking at the results from this year’s Guide to Canadian wine, more than half of the 90+ scoring wines were from Niagara. So, proof is in the glass that the tides may be changing. What is clear is that site and vintage are extremely important for this variety when grown in Ontario, not to mention yield and picking dates. Yet, it can be done and quite positively, as we have seen in these results. We tend to seek out the best examples from sub-appellations of Niagara that have more substantial growing degree days (as this is a fairly late ripening variety) such as Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. David’s Bench, Niagara River or Four Mile Creek although Beamsville Bench is developing a growing reputation for this variety due to some key sites.

Particularly in the southern Okanagan cabernet sauvignon, grows with more ease than elsewhere in the country due to the relatively elevated mean temperature over the growing season. While the average temperature plays into the generalization that southern Okanagan cabernet sauvignon is akin to those of Napa or Washington, and Niagara cabernet sauvignon has more appeal to lovers of Bordeaux, our tasting has revealed that there are some exceptions to that stereotype. While climate is the most important, overarching factor in the character of a quality wine, cabernet can be tightened, loosened and dressed in ways that showcase its various facets.

Quite notable were the prices of these cabernet sauvignons. The average price of cabernet sauvignons scoring 90 and above points was $54 and the prices ranged from $30.49-$110. I can’t help but question if the effort is worth the reward for both consumers and wineries alike. In a global cabernet context, where does Canada fit in? I posit that the answer is rather complex but that there is still a somewhat niche future for this grape variety, in both provinces, as long as growers are vigilant about vineyard sites and consider blending with other grapes when vintage variations don’t sway in the favour of cabernet sauvignon.

Return to the complete Guide to Canada’s Best Wines.

The top 10 Cabernet Sauvignons in Canada:


Adamo Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Lenko Vineyard 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench ($95)

Noble Ridge King’s Ransom Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($110)

Icellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Icel Vineyard 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the Lake ($90)

Southbrook Witness Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Four Mile Creek ($45)

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($38)

Moon Curser Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($40) 

Gray Monk Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($44)

Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench ($50)

Trius Showcase East Block Clark Farm Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Four Mile Creek ($49)

Icellars Icel Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA, Niagara-on-the Lake ($50)

More top Cabernet Sauvignons:

Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the Lake ($49)
Noble Ridge Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($58)
The Foreign Affair Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($40)

Upper Bench Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, BC VQA Naramata Bench ($46)
Peller Estates Andrew Peller Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Four Mile Creek ($49)
Church & State Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($37)

Jackson Triggs Sunrock Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($30) 
Chateau Des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2016, VQA St. David’s Bench ($35)
Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($27)


Marynissen Platinum Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($40)
C.C. Jentsch Cellars Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Bc VQA Golden Mile Bench ($58)
Alvento Boreas 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($48)

The Foreign Affair Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($40)
Burnt Timber Cabernet Sauvignon Monarch Vineyard 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($32)
Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench($50)

13th Street Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, VQA Creek Shores ($35)
Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($35)

indicates the wine received a 5 star value rating from two or more writers.

Return to the complete Guide to Canada’s Best Wines.